As promised, Genesee County Fairgrounds was overrun with kids — more than 1,000 of them — for most of Tuesday.
But instead of it being some kind of free-for-all riot, the students from 30 school districts were there to focus on work. As part of a GLOW With Your Hands initiative, the event offered several stations where kids could not only see and hear about various careers in the work world but also get hands-on experience to get a real feel for what the different fields are like.
This was the fourth such event, and with an ever-growing attendance, Co-Chairman Chris Suozzi said.
“In 2019 we had over 800 students, and this year we had over 1,000. Then we had 50 vendors, today we have 65 vendors,” Suozzi said. “Students can start exploring careers that work with your hands, and by the way, all of these careers are local. It’s a whole day of getting out of the classroom … and exploring different careers, especially for kids who are career-focused. It’s all about getting kids to focus on these great careers that we have locally.”
School districts represented the four counties of GLOW — Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming. Organizers consider it the region’s largest hands-on career exploration fair that provided interactive experiences with skilled trades, advanced manufacturing, food and beverage manufacturing, construction and agriculture fields.
Another plus was that kids also met with professionals in those fields, and potential future employers, organizers said.
“While the record participation of our students and businesses is welcome, the true success of GLOW With Your Hands is the having a youth arrive at our event and discover a passion for a career that they may have never considered before,” Co-Chairman Jay Lazarony said in a press release. “Our exhibitors, volunteers, sponsors and organizers are dedicated to supporting students today, and throughout their path to success.”
Students rotated through stations where they were able to operate backhoes and excavators, compete in nail driving and construction competitions, and test their skills on dairy farming and welding simulators.
“It’s incredible to see so many students that are excited about careers right in their own backyard,” Suozzi said. “Our companies are growing, and today demonstrates that the national workforce challenge can be solved locally.”
Students weren’t the only ones to enjoy the fun of digging in the dirt, as state Department of Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon visited the fairgrounds and acknowledged her fascination with excavators. She encouraged the young participants to pursue one of the many careers they glimpsed during the day.
“This is an opportunity for young people to come into a career fair and really experience things with their hands I was over at megatronic station, they can do the circuitry, the air pressure, there’s all kinds of animal husbandry on one side, moving excavators, bucket trucks for young people not to just read about a skill, or have somebody talk about it, but doing it themselves,” Reardon said. “They’re petting the cows and calves, and doing all the megatronic set-up. It’s great to watch them interact with each other and interact with these skill sets. They’re really excited. We need these kinds of career fairs so these young people can make a really smart career path that will sustain their lives.”
She thanked event organizers for hosting the career fair, and reminded the public of the 96 career centers throughout New York that have online training and job resources.
Click here for more information about GLOW WithYour Hands.
Top Photo: A student takes control of an excavator after getting some hands-on lessons during Tuesday's GLOW With Your Hands event; students from 30 school districts within Genesee, Orleans, Livingston and Wyoming counties learn about everything from milking a cow and performing utility work on a pole to mechanical repairs, food chain occupations and laying bricks during the fourth GLOW event at Genesee County Fairgrounds. Photos by Stephen Ognibene.